“The Fringe Festival was the perfect introduction to my new city.”

If you can choose when you relocate, make your move in the warm glow of summer. And if you’re moving to Edmonton, do so during the Fringe Festival in August.

The year was 1998. My husband and I decided to leave British Columbia and answer the siren call of Alberta’s oil sands, with its myriad of opportunities.

Paul arrived a month ahead of me, to settle into his job and find a place where we would shift our west-coast brains to a prairie mindset. I could hardly wait for the plane to land. His grinning face met mine at YEG and he took me to our new home, close to Whyte Ave.

“Come on, we gotta go out now.”

“Out?” I said. “We just got in.” I pointed to my two bulging suitcases. My vision featured a quick shower and a slow re-acquaintance with my cute husband, considering we’d been apart for 33 days. Then I thought of those bottles of wine chilling in the fridge, and a silky teddy still unpacked.

I had time for nothing more than a brief scan of the rooms when he caught my hand, gently pulling me towards the front door. “Baby, the Fringe is on!” The sexy party would have to wait; he wanted me to “meet Edmonton” (his words) with a high-energy introduction.

We only had to walk a couple of blocks before reaching a full-on Fringe frenzy under the dazzling sun. Holding hands, we meandered through a swell of busy buskers, a melody of sounds and the sweet-salty tang of food vendors. We purchased tickets for several performances.

Years earlier I discovered that the Fringe has an interesting origin. Fringe performances began in Edinburgh during the 1940s, with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe officially formed in 1947. From its Scottish roots to its current worldwide status, the Fringe Festival has flourished.

Shows aren’t judged or juried although the selection of performers can be based on a lottery system, depending on the festival’s popularity. Whether the talent is emerging or established, performers are welcome to join the annual festival.

Local participants and audience members alike should feel proud: the first North American Fringe Festival took place in Edmonton as part of Summerfest in 1982. Before long, our Fringe evolved into the stand-alone festival enjoyed by thousands every August. To condense this production into one sentence, here goes: thought-provoking, irreverent, polished, hilarious, experimental and above all – entertaining and worth any trip!

Paul was right; the Fringe Festival was the perfect introduction to my new city.

But I had more surveying to do. We travelled the roads that surrounded my new neighbourhood, past the Strathcona Hotel, past a window with fluffy baked goods, past open doorways that spilled jazz or rock music, past a range of subcultures to explore and restaurants to try. After leaving a province where designated libations and hours of operation were government-regulated, I pointed at the signs atop liquor stores—Liquor Barn and Liquor World, to name a few. Here, a galaxy of pleasures awaited, all open late and within walking distance.

Speaking of pleasures, Paul suddenly remembered that lingerie and those bottles of chilling pinot grigio, and he steered me toward home. Edmonton Day 1 had unfolded on the fringe of wonderful.

Shannon Kernaghan © 2016

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